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George W. Gill is an Americanmarker anthropologist. He is Professor Emeritus at the University of Wyomingmarker and is "widely recognized as an expert in skeletal biology".


Easter Island

Gill has researched human osteology on the Polynesian island and Chileanmarker territory of Easter Islandmarker, and in 1981 led the National Geographic Societymarker's Easter Island Anthropological Expedition. Materials that he has gathered form part of the osteological collection of Chile's national museum. He is collaborating with former students on a book about the island, which will aim to "explain the origins of the people and the decline of their ancient advanced culture".

Kennewick Man

Gill has studied Kennewick Man, the skeletal remains of a prehistoric man found near Kennewickmarker in the U.S. state of Washingtonmarker. Gill was among the scientists who successfully sued the United States in order to gain access to the remains, which had been claimed by the Umatilla and other American Indian tribes under a contested interpretation of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act.


In the late 1980s, partly in response to demands from American forensic anthropology organizations to scrutinize methods of racial identification in order to ensure accuracy in legal cases, Gill tested, supported, and developed craniofacial anthropometric and other means of estimating the racial origins of skeletal remains. He found that the employment of multiple criteria can yield very high rates of accuracy, and even that individual methods can be accurate more than 80 percent of the time.

Gill cites these findings in arguing against the increasingly popular idea that human races are mere social constructs. Gill suggests that "race denial" can stem from overstatements of the importance of clinal variation among human phenotypes, and from "politically motivated censorship" in the mistaken but "politically correct" belief that "race promotes racism". Gill argues that "we can often function within systems that we do not believe in": Categories can have practical utility, even if they also seem conceptually problematic.

Gill served on a NOVA-sponsored panel in which he and five others debated the reality of race. Among Gill's opponents was American anthropologist C. Loring Brace—a fellow plaintiff in the Kennewick Man case—who maintains that the term "race" is not warranted by "a biological entity."


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